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Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger | [Fintan O'Toole]

Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger

Between 1995 and 2007, the Republic of Ireland was the worldwide model of successful adaptation to economic globalisation. The success story was phenomenal: a doubling of the workforce; a massive growth in exports; a GDP that was substantially above the EU average. Ireland became the world's largest exporter of software and manufactured the world's supply of Viagra. But there were two big problems....
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Publisher's Summary

Between 1995 and 2007, the Republic of Ireland was the worldwide model of successful adaptation to economic globalisation. The success story was phenomenal: a doubling of the workforce; a massive growth in exports; a GDP that was substantially above the EU average. Ireland became the world's largest exporter of software and manufactured the world's supply of Viagra. The factors that made it possible for Ireland to become prosperous - progressive social change, solidarity, major state investment in education, and the critical role of the EU - were largely ignored as too sharply at odds with the dominant free-market ideology. The Irish boom was shaped instead into a simplistic moral tale of the little country that discovered low taxes and small government and prospered as a result.

There were two big problems. Ireland acquired a hyper-capitalist economy on the back of a corrupt, dysfunctional political system. And the business class saw the influx of wealth as an opportunity to make money out of property. Aided by corrupt planning and funded by poorly regulated banks, an unsustainable property-led boom gradually consumed the Celtic Tiger. This is, as Fintan O'Toole writes, "a good old-fashioned jeremiad about the bastards who got us into this mess". It is an entertaining, passionate story of one of the most ignominious economic reversals in recent history.

©2010 Fintan O'Toole (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“O’Toole...has produced a coruscating polemic against the cronyism and corruption that in his view helped to fuel the boom…. [H]is highly readable book is a salutary reminder that cronyism, light regulation and loose ethics can be a deadly combination.” (Financial Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Derek Trenton, NJ, United States 04-03-11
    Derek Trenton, NJ, United States 04-03-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Never Trust An Irish Bank Again"

    In this audiobook, the author goes into the political, economic and financial regulatory history of the Republic of Ireland (the "Celtic Tiger" lauded in the 90s). You'll meet shady politicians, land developers, and more, some lineages stretching as far back as the 60s and 70s, and come away finding how deeply rooted and tacitly accepted these corrupt practices are.

    One chapter goes into how all the big companies from America, Italy and around the globe domiciled themselves in Dublin to take advantage of tax loopholes so large, you could hide Bermuda in them. Admittedly, some of the reinsurance schemes and paper companies are a bit sophisticated to follow, but the despicable greed comes through loud and clear in the narration.

    I may never trust another Irish bank again after learning all of this. I used to own shares of AIB but not anymore (fortunately I sold before the meltdown), and never again. The book will help you understand the financial reform and economic austerity that the Republic of Ireland has to go through today to pick-up the pieces of the wreckage described up through 2008 in the book, and why democratic though it may be, the electorate simply continue to accept these practices as long as their local politicians bring home the bacon.

    The one detraction I felt from the audiobook were the quantity of numbers being thrown out there to the listener in the narrative (particularly in the earlier part of the book). The author moves arbitrarily from one year to another comparing numbers: GDPs, tax revenue, per capita income, real estate development measures, etc. This can be hard to follow, especially in the audio format.

    Otherwise, it's a good listen for a deep and dark look into the underbelly of Irish politics and finance that the travel brochures and Michael Flatley won't give you.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marek Spokane, WA, United States 11-22-10
    Marek Spokane, WA, United States 11-22-10 Member Since 2002
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    "Funny!"

    Hilarious! Author's fetish for government and regulation is amusing and funny, given his morbid-serious-moralistic tone :-) Enjoyed this work very much, with detailed color and flavor of modern Ireland.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Konstantin State College, PA, United States 03-11-13
    Konstantin State College, PA, United States 03-11-13
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    "Good for getting a view on Irish politics/econ"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    If you would like to get a view on what is going in Irish politics and economics (and demystify the celtic tiger phenomenon), this book is a good source. The problem with the story is that the author didn't separate two things: corruption and cronyism on the one side, and market economy and small government on the other side. It looks like he implicitly assumes that the lack of regulation is a very bad thing per se. While defending this stance might take another book, he should have explicitly articulated his views in this book. It is important, because it is an accepted view that the Irish economy grew so fast due to the small government. Which means that not everything was that bad in the deregulated Irish economy.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-3 of 3 results
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  • Amazon Customer
    10/29/10
    Overall
    "Measured, balanced and easy listening"

    Fintan presents a well balanced view of what went wrong in Ireland. We all want a simple story, the banks caused the crisis. But, he paints a picture of a crisis waiting to happen in a country the kept voting in openly corrupt politicians who allowed unregulated banks and financial institutions to run wild, and sqandered money through the boom times. Worse still the government just kept borrowing to keep it all going for the last 7 or 8 years.

    It's a nicely narrated book that moves along quickly and kept me engaged. Tone of the book is conversational.

    I really enjoyed it.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Ray
    sunningdale, Berkshire, United Kingdom
    1/20/11
    Overall
    "Lazy Narrator or Wrong Choice"

    Very structured and informative and a book that I may actually buy to read. However, as I am Irish I find the inability of the narrator to properly pronounce Irish place and family names correctly must infuriating. To my mind this is an unnecessary frustration. Was it not possible to get an Irish person to narrate or for your chosen narrator to do some research / checking. Too lazy ? Unprofessional and, for me, spoils an otherwise excellent book.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Stephen
    Rowlands Gill,, United Kingdom
    5/25/11
    Overall
    "Smoke and Daggers"

    Having missed the whole of the Celtic Tiger project and only watched in wonder from the sidelines as the Ireland that I knew in my childhood and my early twenties changed completely before my returning eyes, Fintan O’Toole makes an excellent left-wing job of bring the picture shockingly up to date. It is in the main a logical step by step voyage through the last twenty years of Irish history - roughly the 1990’s to 2009 - in which more happened in Ireland than at any time since the heroic 1913 to 1922 period on which so much of the sensitivities which underpin politic life in Ireland are built. When he widens his considerations, there is a little more inconsistency in targeting and hitting the home truths. Absolutely correct to say that Ireland is a society where sin equals sex and money has no sinful value. Wrong to equate the imperative to creativity with the motive to conceal the nature of truth in Ireland - Beckett and Joyce reached deep down into the emotions and taught us all more about ourselves, River Dance and Flatley’s Celtic Tiger are universally understood for what they are and abhorred by Irish people. Joyce himself understood that Leprechauns, smoky peat fires and toothless grannies dragged Ireland back to what others wanted it to be - it is enough to say that Michael Flatley was born in Chicago without wasting time dissecting the choreography and sets of his dance show. Wrong also to spend so much of the book re-hashing well trod ground in respect of Charles Haughey - odious as his sins of money were, they are well known and dead and buried with The Boss. The main job in hand is to determine how the axis of Bush-Blair-Bertie-Bankers managed to ruin the lives of the 75m inhabitants of the British Isles. Good man yourself, Fintan for pointing out the structural shortcomings on which the Irish bubble was allowed to inflate before the inevitable burst, but what role did American and Britain play?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Clare
    Runcorn, Cheshire, United Kingdom
    4/26/11
    Overall
    "Wrong choice of narrator"

    Like others, I enjoyed the content but it was completely the wrong choice of narrator. I was determined to hear what Fintan O'Toole had to say but was driven to distraction by the narrator and his pronunciation. It was a real struggle to get past that but worth it. Please use a different narrator for your next book!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Liz
    LeRheuFrance
    1/27/11
    Overall
    "Great content, disappointing listen."

    A great book, with a 'What!!!' moment every 10 minutes. A catalogue of deliberate error and sheer cynicism. Don't listen in a public place, people will stare at you as you react with exclamations of disbelief and amazement. What a pity the narration was so unprofessional and badly prepared: mispronunciation ( louche as lauche), misplaced emphasis ( something was 'dirt. Cheap') are the most basic errors, Irish names and titles could surely have been researched or at least mispronounced consistently.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Jane
    EnniskeaneIreland
    1/19/11
    Overall
    "Great book, disappointing narration"

    Fintan O'Toole explains clearly how the people of Ireland have been robbed and duped by a small band of greedy bankers and politicians who believed themselves to be outside the bounds of the law and of common morality. It's a pity he didn't narrate the book himself because the reader chosen sounds a bit like a robot or a 'speaking clock'. There are a lot of weird errors of emphasis that I found irritating. Still, It was great to hear the book while I was working and wouldn't have time to read it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Trina
    LondonUnited Kingdom
    12/13/10
    Overall
    "Bone Crunching Number Munching"

    This book is really quite dry. I'm Irish but haven't lived there for 8 years and grew up in the 80s so I sort of understand what is going on. God help you if you are not Irish and are looking for an explanation. I don't think it would be easy to follow.

    It's mostly a collection of arbitrary numbers. 1 billion this, 90 million that so actually it doesn't remain very relevant. At one point, early on, the author, drones ad nauseam on the relative size of different things compared to various US states. Population same as X state, GDP same as Y state, people who poked themselves in the eye with a pencil in any given year the same as Z state. If you have never been to Maryland and don't care to either then the fact that it's Gross National Product is the same as Irelands is not useful.

    Sometimes the Irish way of speaking or writing can be hilarious and full of crackling wit. Not so in this case. Perhaps O'Toole, a leading columnist and newspaper editor, is just better in short form journalism. I found this tome a bit dreary and despite being originally disappointed at it only being short (about 7 hours unlike some of the longer un abridged titles) and therefore bad value, I am now glad.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Jim
    Twickenham, United Kingdom
    10/3/11
    Overall
    "Brilliant tale of eye-popping corruption"

    The source material is fascinating; a largely corrupt political class in bed with a comprehensively bent community of bankers and property developers conspiring to bankrupt an entire country. The narrator's fine by the way. It doesn't sound like he's been allowed to re-record any errors but it didn't bother me nearly as much as it did some other listeners. If you want to hear a narrator really struggle with pronunciation then check out Barry Cunliffe's "Druids".

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Frances
    St Martin, Jersey
    5/17/11
    Overall
    "Informative"

    An excellent book, very well written and researched. However great fan of audible that I am, this is one of these books that I would have preferred to read as a paper book. There is so much detail that I needed sometimes to refer back to previous chapters to really follow it properly and that is more difficult on an I Pod..
    But I stuck with it to the end, and felt that I understood much better the economic problems which have befallen Eire, and it was very, very interesting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ronan
    Ely, United Kingdom
    4/1/11
    Overall
    "An emigrants guide to "The Wild West""

    As an Irish economic migrant from the '80's, I have been interested to understand what exacly went on during the years of the Celtic Tiger.
    On the negative side, the narrator was the worst choice since John Wayne in 'The Quiet Man' and the book felt more of a download of volumes of data than a structured thesis.
    For all that, the data on offer answered my question as to what actually happened and introduced the concept of 'light touch regulation' aka 'let developers and bankers do what you they like as long as everyone gets a cut of the proceeds' and then the ultimate irony was the lecture circuit extolling the virtues of the new 'Irish Invention' to the rest of the world as the panacea for world economic problems - the Emperor has no clothes springs to mind.
    This is a damning indictment of the Irish political system during the Celtic Tiger and the level of corruption in public office. I listened to this book with a combination of amazement, distain and incredulity. The most surprising fact is how many of these politicians, developers and bankers are still in public circulation. The section about the Anglo Irish Bank is so mad that you have to try to remember that this is fact and not fiction. The chapter on the emergence of Ireland as the Wild West of Finance manages to surpass this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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